About 20% of US oncologists studied left patient-facing roles between 2015 and 2022, according to research published in JCO Oncology Practice.

A subanalysis of oncologists who left those roles revealed that 26% had moved to roles in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector. Moving to industry was associated with prior receipt of industry funding, researchers found.

To examine the prevalence of oncologists leaving patient-facing roles, the researchers looked at 2015-2022 data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) national provider database. Oncologists who stopped billing during the study period were considered to have left patient-facing roles.

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The 16,870 oncologists analyzed specialized in hematology/oncology (47%), radiation oncology (25%), medical oncology (17%), gynecologic oncology (6%), and surgical oncology (5%). Most (70%) were men.

A total of 3558 oncologists (21%) had left patient-facing roles by 2022. The attrition rate was 22% among men and 18% among women. The attrition rate was 11% for oncologists with less than 30 years of experience and 45% for those with more than 30 years (P <.01). The lowest attrition rate was seen for oncologists with less than 10 years of experience (8%). 

To determine current employment for oncologists who left patient-facing roles, the researchers randomly sampled 300 of the oncologists. Using LinkedIn and other online sources, the researchers found that:

  • 44% of the oncologists had taken nonindustry positions, which included academic, clinic, or government jobs
  • 26% had taken positions at pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies
  • 12% had other jobs (such as insurance or health care management) or were no longer working
  • 26% had no employment information available.

Oncologists who had moved to industry were found to have received a median of $91,990 in research funding from industry in 2015. In the same year, the oncologists who did not move to industry received a median of $34,475 in research funding from industry sources (P <.05). 

In an adjusted analysis, industry payments for research in 2015 were associated with greater odds of working in industry by 2022 (odds ratio, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.12-1.33).  

“Among doctors who move to biopharmaceuticals, receiving industry payments is modestly associated with the transition, suggesting that trialists may be disproportionately moving to industry,” the researchers wrote. “Strategies to retain talented individuals in a primary role in clinical medicine should be considered.”

Disclosures: This research was funded by Arnold Ventures. One study author declared affiliations with various companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.


Tuia J, Haslam A, Prasad V. Profile of the oncology physician workforce and the characteristics of attrition. J Oncol Pract. Published online May 15, 2023. doi:10.1200/OP.22.00830